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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Taking Off...Looking For a Safe Place to Land

The plane lurched and tilted to the right. "We are going down," screamed the shrill voice in my head. On the outside I thought I remained fairly calm. Probably nobody noticed that my right hand pulled up on the armrest as if to right the plane. My left had gone to my neck and my most valuable piece of jewelry. The quarter-size disk of Pacific Yew (Taxus brevifolia) is just right for use as a worry bead. I've rubbed it shiny with the oils from my skin..

My instructors carved it and 17 more from the branch of a tree found growing near the river. It's strung on Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum) cordage they made while waiting out the 4 long nights of our survival trip. It was our final exam. We passed. KINGFISHER! They welcomed us back from the far side of the river with Miso soup, watermelon, chocolate, and the necklaces - riches we hadn't expected.

Interesting...the panic didn't set in. Landing gear! That explained the sudden lurch. We were landing in Seattle. I didn't know it yet, but I was coming safely home.

As the plane continued it's slow tilt and turn to the right I saw Mt. Baker. The last light from the setting sun hit the sound and streamers of gold and red bounced off the water and up to the low lying purple clouds to the west. Sometimes God gives you a movie moment, and I think he expects us to be grateful. "Thank you," I said in a small quiet voice. Mt. Rainer appeared in my window and the ground met us gently. I'd survived another adventure! "And thank you for that," I added.

I was the last person you'd ever expect to have adventures. On February 14, 2004 - three days before what would have been our 25th anniversary - I found myself divorced and with a job that kicked my butt every day. I'd lost the house we'd built just 3 years earlier, and had narrowly avoided being held responsible for the entire financial burden of the breakup. I had bills I couldn't pay, my blood pressure was up, my feet and my shoulder hurt, and I was sure that I was stuck. Helpless...Hopeless...

I hid in the basement of a friend's house during tornado watches. I didn't drive on the highway. I wouldn't fly- it was too dangerous, and I didn't buy the whole concept of flight anyway. Fear was keeping me from having a life. And yet, I desperately wanted to go places, do things - have adventures.

I found the website to Wilderness Awareness School by accident, applied for a scholarship, quit my job and left Missouri to be the oldest "kid" in the 2006-2007 Residential Program. It was the first thing I'd ever done without a plan and a back-up plan. It was the smartest thing I've ever done.

Aside from the challenges of going back to school, I was stuck in a yurt for 3 days by flood, stranded in town by snow, and survived an earthquake -sort of. I built and slept in debris huts and snow shelters. I learned to start a fire with a bow drill, make and use primitve tools, and gather plants for food and medicine. I learned to stand up for my self, trust my intuition, and tell my story.

My friends tell me I was brave to quit my job and move 2000 miles away to start a new life...I don't feel particularly brave. I just knew that if I was going to survive, I had to make some big changes in my life. And I'm not just surviving - I'm thriving.

In this blog, I'm going to share my probably won't be linear. I go off on tangents. It'll be part outdoor adventure, part travelog, part naturalist's notebook, and part... well, I guess we'll see about that. I'll share my best stories, my biggest triumphs, and my worst moments. It's my intention to entertain you, make you laugh, teach you some cool naturalist "stuff", and, sometimes even make you cry. It's about what I've experienced, what I've learned, howI got here, and where I hope to go from here.

I'll reveal my favorite outdoor store (Cabela's), what equipment I bought (snowshoes, sleeping bags, tents, water purifiers, etc.), what I liked, and what didn't work for me. I'll tell you about my favorite books, my best friends, and my biggest challenges. Life is meant to be an adventure...let me tell you about mine.

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My Favorite Fiction Authors and Books

  • Suzanne Arruda- the Jade del Cameron mysteries: "The Mark of the Lion" "Stalking Ivory", "The Serpent's Daughter", "The Leopard's Prey" and "The Golden Cheetah"
  • Ken Goddard - "Balefire" and others
  • Stephen White - the Dr. Alan Gregory books are all great. "Kill Me" is my favorite.
  • Harlan Coben - anything he writes is great
  • Elizabeth Peters - Amelia Peabody mysteries

My Favorite Nonfiction Authors and Books

  • "Coyote's Guide to Connecting With Nature" by Jon Young, Ellen Haas and Evan McGown- 2nd edition coming soon!
  • Gavin De Becker - "The Gift of Fear"
  • "Deep Survival" by Laurence Gonzales- the best survival book I've ever read! Not a how-to, its more of a who does,and why.
  • Candice Millard - "The River of Doubt -Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey"
  • Anything that starts with "Peterson's Field Guide To..."
  • Tom Brown, Jr. - "The Tracker" and others
  • Mark Elbroch - "Mammal Tracks and Sign" and "Animal Skulls"